Great Yarmouth outer harbour’s �7m cranes to go

The Port of Great Yarmouth has announced the suspension of its container operation - with the �30m terminal's �7m cranes set for removal before they have even been used once.

EastPort chief executive Eddie Freeman described the decision, taken in conjunction with their container terminal operating partner PSA Great Yarmouth, as a 'positive move'.

He said it had been made in response to both the growing demand from the offshore wind energy sector and the continuing economic slump in the container business.

The cranes, which have stood idle since their much-vaunted arrival by boat in May last year, will be taken away to create more quay space for energy firms. However, their return, if and when the economic outlook improves, has not been ruled out.

Mr Freeman said EastPort was already 'actively engaged' in discussions with major players in windfarm development.

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The container operation was announced as an exciting new venture by EastPort's parent company International Port Holdings (IPH) at the time it signed the deal to deliver the outer harbour in 2007.

However, although it was billed as the perfect feeder port for large container bases such as Antwerp, not a single container vessel has since been attracted to Yarmouth.

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Vociferous critics have been quick to dub the port 'a white elephant' and EastPort came under attack in September when it apparently turned its back on the chance to use the cranes for the first time, to transport a load of power station parts to Africa for the freight firm Panalpina.

Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis expressed disappointment that the port was pulling out of the container business and described the cranes as 'iconic symbols'.

He said: 'I am sure there will be a lot of public feeling about the cranes disappearing, but I can understand them taking the business decision.

'They are looking to capitalise on the offshore renewables industry and that is going to bring massive opportunities for the region.'

Yarmouth Borough Council cabinet member for regeneration Graham Plant said he took a positive view of the company taking the decision so quickly and decisively.

He said: 'The original business plan might have been around the container business but since 2007 that has slumped by 40pc because of the tough economic times and it is now literally on its knees.'

He said Yarmouth's geographic position, close to the sites of the third round of windfarm development, combined with its offshore expertise, made it perfectly placed to cash in on the new opportunities.

He pointed to the fact that one local offshore windfarm firm Seajacks, whose multi-million pound jack-up barges have made the outer harbour their home port, has already agreed to build a major office complex on adjacent land on South Denes.

He said: 'It is my view that if the cranes are in the way of further development, I will be happy to see them go.'

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